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Australian Traffic Rules

Dos and Don'ts

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Once you get on the road, here are some Australian traffic rules to remember:

  • If you’re driving slowly — getting used to the traffic, y’know — the lane for you is the leftmost lane if there is more than one lane in the direction you’re going.

  • If you’re traveling on a highway or freeway, Australian traffic rules say you should stay on the left lane (or one of the left lanes if there are more than two lanes going in the one direction) unless you're overtaking. There would be signs to remind you of this.

  • If you’re entering and crossing an intersection, drivers customarily defer to the motorist on the right unless he or she is stopped by a STOP or YIELD sign. At a T intersection, the motorist driving straight through has the right of way.

  • Don’t beep your horn — unless you’re in a situation where you need to warn another driver, for instance, when he’s about to hit you.

  • The speed limit in a built-up residential area has for a long time been 60 kilometres per hour (35mph), but this has been reduced in many places to 50 kilometres per hour as in the Brisbane suburbs and a number of Sydney aeas. Other cities may have adopted the lower limit as well. Be watchful of posted speed limits and do check with the locals. On country roads and highways the usual speed limit has been 100km/hr (62mph) or 110km/hr (68mph), particularly on freeways, unless signs indicate another speed limit. Already, the speed limit on certain stretches of the Newcastle Highway and on Sydney's M4 freeway has been reduced.

    From November 1, 2003, the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority has decreed that the urban speed limit in NSW is 50km/h. This is in line with the recent adoption of a national 50km/h default urban speed limit. Streets that are mainly used for traffic movements and access to main roads will remain signposted 60km/h, or faster, even if there are residential properties on the street.

  • If you’ve been drinking, don’t drive — unless your blood alcohol level is less than .05.

  • Seat belts must be worn by drivers and passengers at all times.

Some road signs to take note of:

  • NO STANDING. Well, sure, you can’t be standing while driving a car. What it means is you can’t stop in the area indicated except to let a passenger get in or off a vehicle, and you certainly can’t park there.

  • NO STOPPING. Except in the event of medical emergencies, don't stop in the area indicated.

  • NO PARKING. Just what it means. You can unload and unload passengers but shouldn’t leave your vehicle parked there.

  • BUS ZONE. Well, leave that to the buses. Taxi zone. Ditto for taxis.

  • LOADING AND UNLOADING ZONE. If you’re driving a truck, ute, van or wagon, you’re allowed to park here if you’re delivering or picking up some sort of cargo. If you’re driving a passenger car, you may have to explain what you’re loading or unloading.

  • The Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, and some of the highways and roads are tollways, so have change ready to go through the tollgates quickly. A growing number of cars are fitted with transponders which allow these vehicles to drive through specially marked gates without stopping. An encoded magnetic card has also been available for some tollways. On some tollways, only transponders called e-Tags (and temporary e-Way passes) can be used.

Next page: Parking and Roundabouts

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